I’ll admit that I was one of those people annoyed to see “The Blind Side” among the Best Picture contenders when the Oscar nominations were announced last week. And I’ll also admit I had many other issues with this year’s Oscars, from Sandra Bullock’s inclusion to the Academy’s decision to expand the supposedly most prestigious category to ten movies. There’s an audio recording of my colleagues and I on The Michigan Daily’s website that can attest to these feelings.
But since that recording I’ve been asking myself: Why all the snark and contempt? Maybe I just get a guilt complex when I rant about my favorite pastime. I was furious that “The Reader” robbed “The Dark Knight” of its spot last year. But looking back on that a year later, it seems ridiculous to get so worked up over the “lack of love” for a movie that grossed over $500 million in the United States alone. I have a feeling we’ll be doing some similar soul-searching around this time next year, and I hope we realize that our love for the movies shouldn’t be dependent on whether a bunch of old fogies in Los Angeles share our opinions.
I’ll let you guys in on a little secret: I liked “Crash.” And “Juno.” And “Slumdog Millionaire” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” I don’t think the Academy was wrong to nominate any of them, despite the backlash they all faced sooner or later. At one point or another, maybe you felt that way too.
The movies themselves haven’t changed since they were first released with zero awards to their name. For the most part, our perceptions of these movies only change once the studios in charge of them (read: not the filmmakers themselves) decide to spend lots of money and go all Max Bialystock on little-old-lady Academy voters. And just as these voters can be swept onto a film’s bandwagon with a couple of well-timed cocktail parties, so too can us filmgoers be swept away by an anti-Oscar mindset.
We like to sit around and talk about how irrelevant the Oscars have become, as though we’d know exactly how to make them relevant if the Academy would only give us complete free reign of the awards process. We don’t know. If you think you know, you’re wrong: You know only how to make the Oscars relevant to you.
The Oscars are now just as relevant as they’ve always been; they mean something to those who enjoyed the nominated films, just like every year. They’re a nice little capper to the annual film cycle. Sometimes the people you like get to take home little gold men. Sometimes they don’t. Then the cycle begins anew. But if Oscar didn’t mean anything, these debates wouldn’t even happen anymore. The fact that we still get worked up over the inclusion of movies like “The Blind Side” automatically proves the validity of the ceremony, as opposed to, say, the collective shrug of the public when “The Hangover” won Best Comedy at the Golden Globes.
Am I sucking all the fun out of the tried-and-true art form known as bitching and moaning (of which I am a master)? Look, if you want to walk up to people looking forward to the Oscars and tell them they’re wrong, that the ceremony’s credibility has gone completely out the window and that the only way the Oscars can redeem themselves is by bludgeoning Sandra Bullock to death on live TV, go ahead. But I think it would be better for all of us involved, film fanatics and casual audiences alike, to simply treat the ceremony as great entertainment and nothing more. We’ll all be a lot happier that way.
“Great entertainment” isn’t the same thing as saying the Oscars are meaningless. The AFI Awards are meaningless. The Oscars are the glue that holds the art of filmmaking together, which isn’t as bold of a claim as you might think. Studios bankroll the production of quality movies like “Up in the Air” in the hopes of winning Oscars, and when you take away that prize potential, you’re left with lowest-common-denominator panderers instead of legitimate works of art. Again, movies can exist as thought-provoking productions outside of the realm of the Oscars, and the ceremony itself can exist as a night of glittery indulgence without the films themselves. But you need both elements to keep the film industry alive.
So let’s all put aside our differences and take the pre-Oscars opportunity to actually do what this ceremony was designed to have us do: see some movies. Because at the very least America has now been given 10 new movie recommendations instead of just five, and if you want to follow Hollywood enough to debate awards, you owe it to yourself to see as many of those as you can.